Dr. Todd, in his sermon, asked us all to wrestle with our relationship with our Lord. As Dr. Todd contrasted between (1) the evil plans of Herod to persecute the church with the Church’s commitment to pray, (2) the precautions of Herod with the peace of Peter, (3) the intervention of God with the inactivity of Peter, and (4) how vastly different the story was from beginning to end, I realized the wrestling had begun.
Do we earnestly pray for those who are persecuted for His name’s sake? It could be the missionary serving abroad (like Andrew Brunson in Turkey who has been jailed for “crimes against the state,” which is a fancy way of saying “living for Jesus”) or the student who faces ridicule from teachers/professors and fellow students for daring to interject faith into daily living (depicted in the movie “God’s Not Dead”). Are we specific in those prayers?
Do we know His peace amidst life’s tragedies and challenges? Can we boldly proclaim “It is well with my soul” during trials and tribulations?
Do we appreciate daily what God has done for us? He rescued us from the power of sin and death? And if we appreciate it, what does that thankfulness look like in our lives?
And do we have a desire for the Word of God to grow in us? And grow in others?
And so it goes: Is your faith personal enough to sustain you? To bring you to your knees when times are good and when they are anything but good? To convict you to pray for others who are persecuted? To acknowledge daily, in a personal way, what God has done for us?
To make it real in my life, I felt the need to create a story narrative based upon my understanding of John 3:16. No matter how many times I tell it, or go over it in my head, this narrative brings home the significance of God’s sacrifice and how much He wants a personal and intimate relationship with me. Picture with me a cul-de-sac in a secluded neighborhood off a busy county road. At the 12 o’clock position of the cul-de-sac is a dead end. And at the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions are two fathers cutting their grass with loud lawnmowers. And while they cut, each looks to the center of the cul-de-sac as their respective sons play together. One child is the epitome of society’s definition of perfect; there is no doubt he will be successful and attractive to the ladies. And the other child is less than perfect; he has physical deformities and perhaps bears the weight of a dysfunctional family. Off in the distance, a truck driver realizes that his brakes are failing and searches his mind for a place he can safely steer to safety and jump out before it crashes. He thinks of the relative safety of the 12 o’clock position in the cul-de-sac and heads that way. It never enters his mind that children would be at play. As the father of the "perfect" child looks up from the lawnmower while the driver abandons his truck, he realizes that he must jump his front yard fence and race to save his son. As he draws closer to the boys he realizes that time and momentum will allow him to save only one child. His plans for his child's future as a successful high school and college football quarterback and beyond flash in his mind. And as he stoops down to pick up the boy he cannot bear to look back as the truck takes the life of his only son. You see?! God turned his back on His only begotten Son because He could not bear to see the sin Christ took on for you and me. My heavenly Father--Abba--ran and rescued me--the imperfect, unholy, sinful child and sacrificed His perfect, holy, blameless son so that I might glorify and enjoy Him forever.
That story keeps it personal and real for me. What does the same for you? I would love to hear it sometime when our paths cross.
Rex L. Casterline, Elder